HAMBURG, GERMANY. Without a single silver bullet to solve the world’s energy problem, Shell Oil is continuing to address multiple fuel technologies to help customers meet the needs of the vehicles while also providing maximum uptime and customer service.
Towards this end, Shell is working with OEMs as it tries to address fuel economy, in particular.
Richar Tucker, general manager – technology for commercial fuels & lubricants, during a presentation yesterday for international journalists at the Shell Technology Centre in Hamburg, Germany, said the company is working with numerous types of fuels around the world and continues to explore new opportunities as they present themselves.
“We don’t believe there is a single alternative to the energy challenge,” he said. “There is no single bullet because what works in one country does not work in another.”
With a 13% global lubricant marke share and the worldwide market leader for six years running selling over 3,000 products in more than 100 countries, Shell is positioned to address fuel economy from both a fuel and lubricants perspective.
“What we are trying to do at Shell is not follow [the here and now of fuels and lubricants], but take a radical approach,” Tucker said, adding that research underway at the Technology Centre includes “ultra-low viscosity” lubricants.
“Viscosities that would not be allowed today,” he said. This includes collaboration with engine makers to see if components could be redesigned to make the lubricants “more widespread” for use in engines.
“If you go too low on viscosity, you risk damage [to components], so there is a fine line,” he added.
The goal of Shell is to work with OEMs “in an intimate partnership [to] share details” of development to create the best products possible.
The big challenge right now, though, is the shift to fuel economy and that, Tucker said, is creating more opportunities to address what he called “the alphabet soup of [lubricant] specifications.”
“We’ve moved from a world of NOx to a world of fuel efficiency. Do all the specifications still [apply]?” he asked. That is one of the questions the engineers at the technology center at addressing.
While Tucker admitted what most already know – conventional fuels will dominate for years to come – there are a number of new and emerging fuel choices that Shell, from both a fuel and lubricant angle, must stay ahead of the curve on. These include biofuels and natural gas.
“Shell has invested a tremendous amount of money in a fuel called gas-to-liquid (GTL),” Tucker said. The company has built the largest GTL plant in the world, he said, in Qatar, opening the facility, which required a $19 billion investment, two years ago.
“It is commercially available in Germany and Belgium right now and we are testing it [for widespread viability],” Tucker said. “For long-haul trucking, the benefits are not so clear, but for ‘last-mile’ delivery operations, the benefits are clear.”
Among the benefits of GTL, Tucker said, is that it produces zero sulfur and can be implemented into the existing fueling infrastructure.
“We’re investing a lot of money in this largely in the United States and Australia,” Tucker said. “The big benefits of this is a lower-cost fuel [that is cleaner burning].
“One of the challenges of liquefied natural gas is bringing the infrastructure to market, but this is an area that Shell is investing in,” he added.
Of course, in the U.S., Shell is making a large investment in natural gas infrastructure, working with both Volvo and Mack to help develop that market. The company has also worked to create “natural gas corridors” in the Great Lakes and Gulf Coast.
In April, Shell announced it was working with TravelCenters of America to install at least two heavy-truck LNG fueling lanes and related storage facilities at each TA and Petro truck stop location.
Shell offers a Rotella T3 15W-40 oil formulation designed especially for natural gas engines.
Tucker said Shell also believes that biofuels will continue to play a role in the future as well.
“We believe the future is about second generation biofuels, that, is where you take [biomass] to make the fuel,” he said.